My First Home: Celeb chef Miguel Barclay on rebuilding his house in Camden

Celebrity chef Miguel Barclay, 35, may be known for his no-nonsense cooking on a budget, a la his famous One Pound Meals, but he doesn’t mind saving a few quid when it comes to property.

Miguel bought a small Camden house and made it bigger and better, doing a lot of the work himself and reducing his bills.

His Miguel’s Pizza restaurant is at Buck Street Market, which recently reopened to the public and has the largest rooftop in Camden.

When did you buy your home?

I bought my first home about six years ago in Camden Town after living in the area for ten years and falling in love with it.

I used to walk past the house every day and never thought I’d actually live there.

It was a random shortcut I liked to take down a road with a row of identical terraced houses.

I wasn’t fussed which one I would live in, they were all the same, I just liked the fact that it would be a whole house.

All I needed was two bedrooms and an open-plan kitchen/lounge area for work, then the garden was a total bonus.

It’s basically a big flat spread over a few floors; small houses like this are quite rare and it was a great way for me to be able to afford my own freehold property. 

Why did you decide to buy at that point?

I was about 30-years-old and was about to get married. So the timing was perfect for us to create a home together.

My wife sold her flat and we bought a lovely house together and started living like proper grown-ups.

How did it feel to buy?

It was the biggest and most important purchase of my life, so it was a huge deal for me to buy a house.

But I knew the area very well and it was exactly where I wanted to live, so I wasn’t nervous about it.

I was more worried about doing the house up – it was in a really bad state.

What did you do with it?

I fancied trying my hand at property development and wanted to try and
add some value to it, so it had to have potential to extend.

It was important for me to have my own space where I could do whatever I wanted, so a small freehold property was preferable over a larger, fancier leasehold flat.

You built an extension?

One of the surprises was I learnt how easy it was to build.

It transformed a badly designed house, struggling to sell, into a perfectly proportioned home. I’d love to do it all over again.

Did you do a lot of the renovations yourself then?

I ripped out everything, so it was just joists and brick walls. But I had zero experience so I had to get on YouTube and find out how to put it all back together.

That was the fun part. It took two years and I learned everything, from plumbing to electrics to flooring, kitchens and bathrooms.

I found out how to take out sash windows by watching a YouTube video and then
fully restored and re-hung them with new weights.

The DIY extension was all done under permitted development and I just dug a hole, filled it with concrete, employed a bricklayer and before I knew it, it was almost done.

Sounds easy….

I had a few issues along the way. It took two attempts at the roof and the size of the back door created some problems with the U-value calculations, but I really enjoyed researching and learning about all the building regulations.

Did you build your own kitchen?

I built my own kitchen out of lengths of wood from the timber yard in Camden.

I just screwed them together to make a rough kitchen shape and stuck some wine crates in the holes.

It was cheap and a bit rough around the edges but I was after something rustic and unpolished for my Instagram and YouTube channels.

It needed to reflect my style of food and feel like a place I would be found cooking. It turned out quite nice, nicer than I’ve described it…

Did you cook a lot there?

I’ve written and photographed five cookbooks in this house and, because of the large kitchen and extended space in the lounge, it works great.

Normally, stuff like this is done in big warehouses but there was plenty of space to cook in this way.

I have two hobs, which is a bit unusual, but it was important that I built this kitchen for work, too.

Any favourite memories there?

I remember when we got married, then bringing my son Charlie home after he was born and then his first steps – it’s a lovely family home with family memories.

But I also like the fact that my cookbooks were written and shot here, too. I like the fact that these memories are all intertwined.

You can find Miguel’s pizza restaurant at Buckstreet Market in Camden,

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